Is it worth the risk?
Am I willing to be hurt?
Am I willing to be judged?
These, my friends, are important questions. And these self-reflective inquiries relate directly to artists and the creative process. In fact, I would say, the fact that my artist friends are willing to wade through these questions, make their art, and have the courage to put it out there is part of why I admire them so much. Sharing your creative expression involves risk. It just does, especially if that expression is personal and honest.
Why is this case? Why does sharing art put the artist at risk? It’s pretty simple actually. Honest artistic expression is the artist putting an element of themselves out on display. It is revealing a piece of their hearts for other folks to see… and perhaps judge or scrutinize. Yeah, creating honest art is risky business.
I think of Derek Webb, an artist and entrepreneur that has had an incredible impact on me personally. While he would tell you he has certainly made his share of mistakes, he has been willing to take risk after risk musically, lyrically, career-wise, and more. He pushed the boundaries of “Christian music” and sang about things that other “Christian” artists wouldn’t touch, even though he knew it would impact his bottom line and the breadth of his fan base. Courage.
I think of Field Report’s Chris Porterfield and his raw, soul-bearing songwriting. You can hear the brokenness, the personal folly, and the pain throughout Field Report’s self-titled debut album. Porterfield was willing to put all of that out there in a permanent record for anyone’s perusal and/or scrutiny. Courage.
I think of Sayth, the preeminent locally-rooted rapper here in the Valley. He has used his immense talent to share his story of struggle and pain. He has been explicit about his homosexuality and the grief and sorrow he has experienced at the hands of folks who have hated him for it. Courage.
I am not an artist, at least not in the classical sense. But, I can relate to that risk. In fact, in various ways, I’m sure you can too. Any time you choose to speak up, you take the risk. Whenever you cultivate a new idea and choose to share it, you take the risk. That time you’re called on to present information, yes, that can involve the same risk. And, in each of those circumstances, it takes courage to step up to the plate, meet the challenge, and take the risk.
I am a risk taker by nature. It’s just part of who I am. But, I’ve been burnt enough times to know the risk really well… intimately, painfully well. And yet, when I am faced with taking the risk, oftentimes it is the artist than inspires me to move forward. It is the self-revelatory bravery from artists like Field Report, Derek Webb, and Sayth that push me to “screw my courage to the sticking place,” buck up, and do what I need to do… what I am built to do… what my heart longs to do.